Kekkaishi is one of the more under appreciated titles when it comes to shonen manga. With wildly popular series like Naruto and Bleach out there, it is not surprising that other quality titles will get lost in the pile, and Kekkaishi is an unfortunate example of this. With crisp, attractive artwork — some of the best artwork one will find in a shonen manga — endearing characters and a rock-solid plot, what is keeping people from giving this series the recognition it deserves? Now that Viz Media has licensed Sunrise’s anime adaptation, perhaps Kekkaishi will finally fulfill its potential to be a real hit.
In usual shonen style, volume 18 picks up directly where the cliffhanger ending of volume 17 left off and quickly resolves the previous story arc. Before moving on to the next arc, Masamori assigns Sen to spy on his younger brother Yoshimori. Sen enrolls at Yoshimori and Tokine’s school. Yoshimori soon becomes concerned about Sen’s standoffish attitude, while Sen is more concerned about succeeding at his mission. Just when both of them are beginning to make the effort to open up to one another, the real meat of this volume takes over.
A new observer of the Karasumori site appears with the ability to unleash weak butterfly-like ayakashi to recon the site. She can also communicate through them just like a proxy. These creepy butterflies appear harmless at first but, like so many pests, Yoshimori and company just cannot seem to rid the site (which is the same place they attend school) of them. There is also another problem: these ayakashi are appearing during the day, which is a rarity. As a result, things really get out of hand as the butterflies absorb the power of Karasumori and wreak havoc upon the school. Normally, average students cannot see ayakashi, but as the butterflies become more powerful the students and faculty become aware of their presence and begin to panic as a result. Things have become quite dire at this point, forcing Yoshimori to employ his usual rashness to the point of endangering the entire school. All this makes for a very absorbing read. Especially once the school becomes panic-stricken.
Tanabe is excellent at balancing her manga between plot advancement, humor, and character development. Volume 18 is no exception as is provides just the right mix of the three. We learn more about Sen’s secret ability, we learn that Masamori, though he feigns acceptance, is still frustrated with the fact that his laid-back brother was chosen to manage Karasumori, Tanabe’s knack for subtle humor is as good as ever, and Yoshimori once again has to cope with the fact that he cannot always rely on his powers with utmost confidence – he still has got plenty to learn. Not to mention Tanabe comes up yet again with another clever foe for our protagonist to face.
After other excellent read, volume 18 ends as expected – on a cliffhanger that will leave loyal Kekkaishi readers begging for more.